Sunday, September 30, 2012

Interesting Illustrations

Sometimes, being an illustrator is easy. There are days when drawing is painless and the images rush and flow from the pencil as if the graphite was lured onto the paper by Odysseus's Sirens, to be trapped on the page, which is transformed into a more forgiving place forever and always. The shapes are lovely, the shadows rich and supple. Its a world where ugly is transformed into fine art and becomes a thing of beauty simply because it was rendered with a pencil. Plain becomes interesting and mysterious. The blank white page comes alive with emotion and the artist... yes, me... I cannot believe what I have created.

I am stunned and filled with fear that this thing I have created sucked my stores dry and there is no more where that came from. I study it, find faults that no one will ever see and worry a little about what I will do with such an amazing creation. I can't keep everything. Like children, they must be set free to find their place in the world. I like the idea that there is artwork out there that I created, but don't know exactly who is currently looking at it and whether or not they have come up with the proper interpretation.

I take a picture of these great works and stare at them until I nod off and my ipod slips out of my hand and hits me in the nose. This indicates a good day's work.

On occasions, the illustrations come hard and heavy and the creating is chore. The lines awkward, the strokes offend the image. Nothing flows with peace and abandon. Rending becomes an effort like dragging glass over wet boulders, they slip and break on the rugged surface, shattering, leaving shards that cut and scrape. Every line is carved. It is easy to abandon, but this work must be completed, whether it is for an assignment or commission, the work must be completed. This is when it is difficult to draw.

I have been known to question myself where my art is concerned. I admit, I am a demon in my own head. I keep looking for my "style" to emerge and feel disappointed that all I see is the same old me... my style.

I draw, paint, render, print, sew, bake.... etc. I do it as I have always done it. I am careful, controlled, rigid, methodical and... I am hopeful, enthusiastic, enamored, playful, creative and in love. I am all of these things when it goes well, leaving less of the left brain qualities behind while I dive freely into a pool of the more engaging characteristics of my art self.

Still, all of these qualities and more are present when the art flows as well as when it doesn't. I never leave any of them behind, so when it goes badly, it is really my perception that is skewed. I know that when I am disappointed, its not really half as bad as I think it is. I don't really give myself a break and yet, I can look at any other drawings and find the glory, well rendered or not. I love gazing upon the artwork of children. I can see a love for the process of art in them and that is beautiful thing.

My first child, Courtney, spent many years feeling as if she missed the creative art gene that the rest of us all have. She felt her work was never good enough. I do know the feeling and maybe she was echoing my doubts about my own abilities. But the main characteristic of her artistic discontent was that she didn't love the process. Art is messy and she wanted it to be perfect. The one thing art is not.

When Courtney left home to attend college in Bellingham, she began to explore her art self, in the same way I explored design at Central. She launched an expedition through the uncharted territory of her creativity that was quite amazing, creating interesting art using any medium she could obtain... all the while claiming she wasn't an artist.

When I attended Central Washington University, I discovered a different world in art and its relationship to communication and design. That was my focus. Occasionally, I produced a drawing that wasn't technically perfect, but I loved it anyway and even though I didn't have an ipod to stare at before I fell asleep, I would sit in our tiny kitchen late into the night and look at what I made with my hand and a pencil. I did that with many of my works, but with my Self-Portrait from 1983, I feel wonder every time I look at it. Sometimes it feels amazing.

It was like that when Courtney came home from college and showed us this urgent need to create a charcoal drawing. She was driven and it was a strange thing to watch someone who felt like a left-brainer attack this artwork like a full-blown, obsessed artist... and she wasn't free until she finished the thing.

This piece is my favorite of her now vast body of artwork.  I loved the lines and the energy and her commitment to finish or to get it right.  It was perfect.

I know a well-drawn work of art gets the glory, but, what makes it interesting is loving the process.

As I begin a quarter of Advanced Drawing, I am going to give myself a break and try not to be the perfectionist. I am going to learn and lose control and draw freely. No mistakes will be made, because art is joy, the process is love and the result is a gift.

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up. — Pablo Picasso

Smoking, Courtney Cline, 2010 Charcoal 

My Self-Portrait from 1983 - Pencil on Newsprint


  1. Wow! I feel so honored to appear in your blog. And I love that drawing I made too! It is the last charcoal drawing I made. . . 2 or 3 years ago. I remember those days of being a mad scientist-esque, artist on a mission. I would be covered head to toe in whichever medium was at my mercy. I always loved charcoal best, because it was my corner of the art world that you and Elizabeth didn't visit very often :-) thus eliminating any comparisons. I haven't created in a long time, and I very much miss art in my life. Thanks for re-igniting the spark! Love you!

  2. I hope you do get back into it, Courtney. It's funny... you produced more art and practiced techniques more often than those of us going into the arts as a career choice. I hope you do get back into it. Love you too!

  3. She's BACK! Missed you here, Darcy.

    I can't wait to see what comes out of Advanced Drawing this term. Especially if you can get that Perfectionist to take a little vacation. ~ B

  4. It was a busy month. Looking forward to being busy, not busier.

  5. Mom, I really like that self portrait. How come I have never seen it? It is soo cool

  6. I have a lot of artwork that is packed away. My blog is a good excuse to dig it out and look at it. Thanks for reading. Love you!